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"I Have A Dream"

by Martin Luther King, Jr,


Delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963.
Source: Martin Luther King, Jr: The Peaceful Warrior, Pocket Books, NY 1968

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand
signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great
beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the
flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long
night of captivity. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that
the Negro is still not free.

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the
manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years
later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean
of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in
the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense


we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our
republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of
Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American
was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable
rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that
America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color
are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given
the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient
funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse
to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of
this nation.
So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand
the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this
hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time
to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of
gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of
segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors
of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from
the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to
underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the
Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn
of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning.
Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be
content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.
There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted
his citizenship rights.

The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation
until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to
my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of
justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of
wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking
from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and
discipline. we must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical
violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting
physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must
not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as
evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny
is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our
freedom.
We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we
shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the
devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" we can never be satisfied
as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in
the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied
as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.
We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a
Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are
not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters
and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and
tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you
have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the
storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have
been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that
unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to


Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that
somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the
valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties
and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted
in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true
meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are
created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons
of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down
together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of
Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression,
will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my
four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the
color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are
presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be
transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able
to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters
and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley
shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places
will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory
of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope.
This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able
to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be
able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony
of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray
together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom
together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new
meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land
where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let
freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So
let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom
ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the
heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the
snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks
of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of
Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom
ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every
mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every
hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day
when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles,
Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of
the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are
free at last!"

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